Wednesday, August 29, 2007

this one's for kyliemac

I guess it's fair to say that when you're learning a new language in a new country, it's natural to try to add some phrases to your vocabulary. I think the first French phrase I clung to was "n'importe quoi," which can be thrown out there like "Whatever!" Probably the the one I use the most frequently is adding on the word "quoi" (literally means "what") at the end of the sentence, which is the equivalent of the American overuse of the word "like," but like its American counterpart, should, like, be used, like, totally like sparingly.

My friend kyliemac often says that her favorite French phrase is "ferme ta boîte à camembert," which literally means "close your camembert box" (camembert being a tasty kind of French cheese), but really means "shut yer piehole" in kidspeak. Kylie hears this a lot because she is regularly in the presence of French kids, but as I am not, I had never heard this phrase in use before.

Well, before last night, that is. I was all comfy on the couch with Shrek (dubbed in French) playing on the tv but mostly paying attention to my knitting, when I heard it, and it happened so fast I nearly missed it, but no, there was L'âne (Donkey) telling Shrek to "ferme ta boîte à camembert et écoute-moi!" (Shut up and listen to me!) I got so excited because a) this normally would have gone right over my head and b) I finally heard kylie's favorite phrase! Yay!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

a recipe

Wow, I'm feeling 50% better than I was yesterday, and I'm quite surprised! I went to the pharmacy yesterday and said that I was afraid that I had le sinusite, or sinusitis, thanks to the mounting pressure in my face. He thought maybe I'd be better off seeing a doctor, but he gave me some over-the-counter allergy medicine and told me to see the doctor the next day if I didn't feel better. By 4:00 I asked Stéph to make an appointment for me because I was still feeling so lousy.

And then, miracle of miracles, I woke up this morning with both the cough and the sinus pressure gone! I'm still sniffly and stuffy, but well enough that I canceled the appointment and have officially downgraded myself to "cold" status. I'll be sticking to allergy medicine and rest today.

I'm also working on a new project that hopefully I'll be sharing with you in the next week or so. I'm still trying to get all my eggs in the same basket, but I can tell you that it will involve knitting and prizes!

And now, a very special recipe given to me by the ever gracious Frog with a Blog:

Salade italienne à la frog


5 slices of pain de mie (sandwich bread)
30 g butter
4 slices of bacon or lardons
1 roman lettuce (romaine)
100g gorgonzola
1 paquet de noix

dressing ingredients:

1 egg
1 dl olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 or 3 anchovies
1 tbsp moutarde de Dijon

1) Make the croûtons:

Take the slices of pain de mie, cut the edges to keep the white part only. Cut the white part into small squares. Put in pan with butter and olive oil until golden. Keep on the side on piece of sopalin (paper towel) to absorb the fat. Let them become a bit crusty and delicious.

2) Prepare the salad

Fry the bacon cut in small pieces or use lardons, when crispy and delicious put on sopalin to get rid of the fat. Cut the Roman lettuce roughly in pieces that are not too big. Mix, the bacon, lettuce, pieces of gorgonzola, walnuts and mix. Only add the croùtons right before serving otherwise they become all smooshy.

3) Magic dressing

Boil water, throw your egg in it. Let that egg boil for one minute. Not more! Then break the egg into a food processor and mix with the other ingredients until it becomes smooth and delicious. Taste and see if salt and pepper are needed, usually not as the anchovies are already salted.

My advice would be to prepare the croûtons and the bacon right before serving to make sure they are crispy and delicious. You may have understood that the crispiness and deliciousness of this salad are essential to the success of this recipe. ;-)

You can always warm your bacon and croûtons in the oven before serving in case they become all smooshy. 5 minutes, 175 degrees.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

all becomes clear

I understand why I've been so tired. I'm as sick as a dog.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


Thanks for your kind wishes in regards to my last post. I confess I'm thinking more about my poor grandmother, who has lost her sister.

As for me, I am utterly exhausted. The last few days have found us entertaining and being entertained day after day and I am just drained. Thursday we had guests not just for lunch, but for dinner as well. My sister-in-law had an interview at the high school here in our town, but as she doesn't drive, her mother brought her, as well as her daughter and our niece, who has been spending a week or two with her grandparents. Since her interview was at 11:00, they invited themselves over for lunch - actually, that sounds worse than it is, as we were happy to have them and it's been ages since we had any family over for lunch. "Oh, just do something simple," my belle mère said, but unfortunately, chips and a sandwich just won't do here in France. So our "simple" lunch consisted of deviled eggs and carrot salad, stuffed tomatoes and rice and a small ice cream cake for dessert.

As soon as they left, I was back in the kitchen preparing dinner for our next guests. By 6:30 I was in the car on the way to the train station to pick up kyliemac and her friend visiting from the States. Once back at home, we all dug into Frog's Very Special and Impressive Italian Salad (thank you so much for that, Frog dear!), a tartiflette (because the weather still felt like deepest autumn, so we might as well eat like it), and a pear clafoutis, made by yours truly. We ate and drank into the wee hours and rolled ourselves into bed.

In the morning, kylie, her friend and I piled in the car, picked up my niece in Troyes, and drove down to see Guédelon. This was my second time there (my flickr set is here) and it would have been Stéph's third if he hadn't begged off, but it was everyone else's first time there so I was happy to play bus conductor for them. Plus it really is in the middle of nowhere, and still two and half hours by car from Troyes. The weather was clear enough, still a bit cloudy but no rain, and it was unbelievably muddy, but a good time was had by all. We got back to Troyes in just enough time to have a quick walk around the old downtown before kylie and her friend got back on the train for Paris.

After all that driving I would have been happy to be a couch potato this weekend, but we were invited to YET ANOTHER barbecue today. Today the sun finally came out after nearly a month's absence, and it came back with a vengeance - it must have been in the mid-80s today. (For those of you sneering, "Oh poor you!" I hope you are enjoying your air conditioning!) After six hours of hiding from the sun and eating sausages, my friends, I do declare that I am DONE. Just stick a fork in me. I love entertaining, I love hanging out with my friends, but I feel like I could sleep for a week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

sad news

I received the very sad news today that my Great Aunt Betty passed away this morning. I will always remember her for her cheerful disposition, her sense of humor and her outgoing personality. She had been fighting cancer for five years and she fought her battle with rare grace, never complaining, and she often said she knew she was living on borrowed time. Even after she was diagnosed, she kept as active as possible. Her favorite pastime was bridge, and she was a member of two clubs!

She will leave behind a legion of friends, for she was loved wherever she went, and of course her family. Wednesday night suppers at church won't be the same without her.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

in awe

Yesterday, I met up with Doc and her three kids.

The mission: find a baptism dress for her youngest.

The place: various outlet shopping centers in and around Troyes.

The outcome: positive! After circling one whole outlet center, lunch at MacDo, a drive across town to another outlet center and a quick stop for a feeding and a last minute look around, a dress was found.

How I felt after spending an afternoon with three children under the age of four: Utterly exhausted.

Seriously y'all, I don't know how she does it, nor why she isn't bat shit crazy. Those children are among the most beautiful I have ever seen, but they are a handful. (Please don't misunderstand me - they're not bad at all, just... all under the age of four.) Granted, I did do a sprint through the grocery before I came home, and since school starts in a couple of weeks, you can imagine how packed it was, but by the time I got home I felt like I'd just run a marathon twice. Backwards. Up a very large mountain.

Doc and I have a running joke that whenever one of the kids has a "moment," she turns to me and says, "Are you sure you want to go through this?" But she knows I do, and she's right. The rewards obviously outweigh the difficulties, but there are no two ways about it - raising kids is a tiring business. My hat's off to you, Ms. Doc!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back to reality

Obviously we've been back for a while. So what have we been up to? Well, for my part, I jumped right back into work and tried to catch up on some sleep. Stéph's been glued to his computer, playing his latest acquisition, Medieval Total War II, for hours on end.

I think I mentioned it before, but last Saturday we went to a barbecue in a village on the southwest side of Paris. The last time we had to drive to the southwest side of Paris (although that time we were actually going to the suburbs so much, much closer) we tried to take the major highways that circle Paris, got caught in Friday evening traffic and ended up being nearly two hours late. This time, we looked at the map and found a route going to the south and then the west, avoiding Paris traffic altogether. We probably added a half hour to the drive but there was absolutely no traffic and you would never know that our destination was only a half hour outside of Paris!

While we were driving, as we got closer to Paris I couldn't help window shopping for a town we could move to next year. Obviously, we will have very little choice as all will depend on where Stéph is assigned, but we enjoyed weighing the pros and cons of certain villages as we passed through. This one has a train station, that one is really beautiful, this one is not, etc. The truth is, Stéph could be placed anywhere in the region of Ile de France, and it's still so far away that it doesn't seem anywhere near real yet.

In addition to keeping on top of work, next week is going to be nice and busy, just how I like it. Monday I'm hopefully going to be meeting up with a friend for a bit of shopping, then we need to get the house in tip top shape as we're having some very special guests in at the end of the week. I'll be taking our guests on a very special adventure, but one I've been to before. Can you guess where? In between all that we're hoping to visit some friends and family. Only two weeks left before school starts back up again so the last minute get-togethers are starting to be planned. And it's at this time of year that I'm just about ready for Stéph to go back to work. I love him dearly but I'm just about ready for some me time!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Loire Valley

(I'm sorry these posts are so ridiculously long, but I can't figure out how to do extended posts with this new template. We'll be back to more reasonably sized posts after this.)

Day 7: le 4 août, samedi


We reckon that we spent upwards of 15 hours at Puy du Fou, so no wonder we slept in late. We decided to skip breakfast and hit the road.

Just before noon, we decided to stop in the town of Saumur to grab a bite to eat. Saumur is a great town I'd love to spend more time in. Plus, we happened to get there while an open air market was in progress and we randomly passed a British couple selling books in English. I picked up two novels for 10€ before we stumbled into a bar offering sandwiches. Pretty good sandwiches, too, and you can't beat the price.

The temperature was rising as we drove a couple more hours to the town of Amboise. Thanks to its proximity to the famous Châteaux de la Loire, Amboise is pretty crowded with tourists. We arrived at 3:00 and made finding a hotel our first priority. The first hotel we stopped at featured a large terrace and we waited several minutes at the counter for someone to wait on us, until a waiter told us that we'd have to wait until after 4:00 if we were interested in a room. Fine with us, we decided to take our business elsewhere. The next place we tried was a winner. I'm sorry I don't remember the name; it was either Hôtel de la France or Hôtel Français. In either case, we scooped up the last room, complete with a full bathroom, at only 45€. We paid in advance and added in breakfast for the next morning as well. The owner even was kind enough to warn us that the bar below our room was having a rock n roll band that night, but said they should be finished at 11:00. We were so happy to find a room so easily that we didn't mind.

Once the room was taken care of, we paused for a cool drink on a terrace right in front of the Office of Tourism (carefully avoiding the one with bad customer service). Thinking that it might not be a bad idea to check out the hours of the châteaux we were interested in seeing, we popped in to the Office of Tourism, where we learned that we could buy tickets to the three closest attractions, all of which we wanted to visit, at a discounted price. Plus, we wouldn't have to wait in line to buy tickets when we arrived. Bonus! This is a great tip for tourists - always check out the Office of Tourism when you arrive in town - any town!

Since it was only 4:00 by now, we decided to check out the first attraction, the Château Royal d'Amboise.

Chateau Royal d'Amboise

This 15th/16th century castle was the first French castle built in the Renaissance style. Inside the castle, there is a short tour of some of the rooms, including some interesting furniture and paintings. But what really drew me to this château is the fact that it is Leonardo Da Vinci's final resting place.

I had read Letters to Leonardo: A Novel, which is centered on the last three years of Leonardo's life, which he spent here in Amboise, only a few months before, so the stories of his friendship with King François I and his last inventions were fresh in my mind. The following day we would visit his house, Clos Lucé.

After our visit, we parked the car closer to the hotel and brought up our bags and had a rest. Stéph had a nap while I watched the Daily Show Global Edition (yay Jon Stewart!). We roused ourselves when the weather seemed to cool down a bit and we had a little stroll through Amboise. Like I said, it's crowded with tourists and filled with souvenir shops and restaurants, so we settled on a little pizzeria just in front of the Château. Afterwards, we grabbed a couple of ice cream cones and walked along the Loire as the sun went down.

The Loire

As we crashed in our room, we were lulled to sleep by the rock n roll band below us playing such classic French tunes as Mustang Sally, I Feel Good and Sweet Home Alabama. Actually they weren't half bad, and they did stop at the reasonable hour of 11:30.

Day 8: le 5 août, dimanche

Breakfast in the hotel consisted of one croissant and one half of a small baguette each, with jam and butter, plus yogurt and all the juice, coffee and tea you could drink. We were stuffed afterwards.

Our first stop for the day was the Clos Lucé, where Leonardo spent his last three years as the guest of King François I.

Clos Lucé

Inside, you can see Leonardo's bedroom and study, the chapel that (if I remember well) Leonardo's apprentices painted, and the kitchen. What I didn't know is that the house was used by the royal family through the 18th century, and features some rooms decorated from that period. The basement also has a really cool exhibit of some of Leonardo's inventions, many of which are very surprising and before their time.

Outside is the huge Parc Leonardo da Vinci, a wonderful walk, mostly shaded by trees, with exhibits scattered throughout where you can pause and hear the words of Leonardo spoken in four or five different languages, plus interactive exhibits to understand better Leonardo's inventions. It would be very easy to spend a good chunk of the day here, with loads of things to see and picnic areas and playgrounds for kids. I don't think we saw half of them. But, we still had other places to visit so we decided to move on.

Our next visit was the famous château of Chenonceau, where we were delighted to pass the long line for buying tickets and marched right through the gate. We thought that arriving at noon would save us from the crowds, but boy were we wrong. After a quick run through the small labyrinth (I won, woo!), we made our way up to the castle.


Chenonceau is probably the most popular château in the Loire Valley for good reason - the place is gorgeous! Unfortunately, the château was SO crowded that it really sucked the joy out of being there. Every room, beautifully decorated with interesting objects, was so full of people that you could barely see anything, and my first instinct was to run the hell away. We took a breather in the long gallery where we discovered that we could escape the crowds and sneak out on the other side of the river, where I caught this:

Click on the photo to go to the flickr page, and check it out in large. Seriously, I surprised myself with this one!

Another happy surprise was the art exhibit on the second level gallery, featuring the Alice in Wonderland series of paintings by Pat Andrea. We both enjoyed that very much, and if you're interested in contemporary art, it's worth the visit.

Disappointed by the crowds, we left sort of quickly. Chenonceau is absolutely gorgeous and well worth the visit, but I hope someday I'll be able to return in the off-season when it's not so crowded so I can really give the place a good once-over.

Continuing east, we stopped in the town of Blois a couple of hours later. By now the heat was really getting to us. We ate some really bad pasta - at least it was super cheap - and contemplated looking for a hotel, but after walking around for a while looking for the Office of Tourism, our brains kind of melted and we decided to continue on. It seemed there were several interesting sights in Blois, including another château and an interesting pedestrian area, so that might be a place I'd be interested in visiting in the future.

We ended up in Orléans. Just as we exited the autoroute, we were surrounded by large chain hotels, so we decided to try here instead of marching around downtown in search of a hotel. We randomly chose the B&B hotel, where we were able to take a room at the automated kiosk outside. The kiosk spits out a code for opening the door, where we were overjoyed to find an air conditioning unit. We spent a couple of hours just enjoying the cool.

In the evening, we headed into Orléans proper, with the aim of walking around a little and finding a place to eat. We stopped at a little Cuban themed bar where we had a mojito (not the best I've ever had), and continued on in the pedestrian area of town, stuffed with bars and restaurants. Most of the places seemed to have an international feel - I remember a Spanish place, a Florida bar, loads of Indian and Pakistani places. We finally chose an Indian restaurant called the Taj Mahal where we had, hands down, the best meal of the whole vacation. Since neither of us are familiar with Indian food, we took the menu "dégustation," which is a tasting menu with lots of different dishes. For only 26€ plus drinks, we gorged ourselves on curry, tandoori chicken, fried eggplant, naan and other delights. Seriously, we waddled away from there. The service was wonderful and I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in Orléans.

By now, we were suffering from full on vacation fatigue. I managed to snap one photo to prove that we were actually in Orléans before we went back to the air conditioned comfort of our room.


Day 9: le 6 août, lundi

We woke up to rain. It's time to go home.

We stopped in the town of Montargis, which was DEAD. Seriously, it seemed like the whole town was gone on vacation. It was kind of creepy. We finally found a crèperie that was open and enjoyed a final restaurant meal before heading home, which we reached by early afternoon.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lions and tigers and horses - oh my!

Whoops! Sorry about the interruption. I got a little carried away with work and then yesterday we drove to the south side of Paris for a barbecue with some of our DAoC friends (nerds unite!). I can tell that it's getting to be the end of summer, because I'll be happy if I don't see a grilled piece of meat for a long, long time. Anyway, back to the big vacation...

Day 5: le 2 août, jeudi

Everything about our stay in Etretat was great except one thing - being woken at the ungodly vacation hour of 6 am by seagulls. Ugh.

After a quick breakfast in the café on the square of the Mairie, we hit the road going south, over the enormous bridge at Port de Normandie (I wish we had stopped to take a photo - that bridge is insane! And there is a lane where psycho crazy people can walk or bike over it. I was nauseous just riding in the car over that thing!) for a 5 1/2 hour drive, stopping at a grande surface grocery store to pick up a few lunchy things and then at a rest stop to eat them along the way. Our ultimate destination was Puy du Fou, and we were spending the night in the town of Cholet, about a half hour's drive away.

When I booked the tickets for Puy du Fou online a couple of weeks before we left, I tried to book us a room at one of the super cheap hotels in the area, but because we would be there on a Friday (more about why we timed our visit for a Friday later), the super cheapies were already booked, so we ended up taking a room for two nights at the Grande Hôtel de la Poste for more money than we would usually spend for a hotel. For a two star hotel, it has a few good things going for it, including a private parking garage (which is not free but worth the convenience), an elevator and an enclosed patio. On the other hand, the restaurant was closed for renovations and the hotel itself was pretty banged up and worse for wear, but I didn't count this against them since I learned that the hotel itself would be closing for renovations in the middle of September. When we arrived in the middle of the afternoon, we rested for a few hours with Stéph taking a nap and me resting my ears with a good dose of BBC World.

Cholet itself doesn't have much to recommend it. Apparently this town is known for the production of enormous handkerchiefs, but you wouldn't know it unless you visited the Office of Tourism. After walking around the town a bit, we settled on dining at the Brasserie Grand Café, resigning ourselves to a simple dinner but finding ourselves pleasantly surprised that the "little" brasserie was an enormous restaurant with dining on two levels and two private rooms. We stuffed ourselves silly on Tartiflette for him (not exactly the season for Tartiflette but it's his favorite and if it's not too hot he'll eat it all the same) and an amazing array of pasta dishes for me, with local wine and dessert. If you're ever passing through, you won't go wrong to check this place out. It's a little touristy, but the food is worth it.

Day 6: le 3 août, vendredi

Up early and out the door - this is the day we've been waiting for! Puy du Fou!

Once we get there at opening time, it seems everyone in the region has chosen today to arrive and we have to park very far away, with the caravans. In truth, it's only a ten minute walk from the gate, but it felt like we were being sent to the other side of the world.

Puy du Fou is a theme park, but not with rides or games. The attraction of Puy du Fou is the amazing shows it puts on around a number of different themes. The production values of the shows are really very high - I was absolutely blown away by the size alone of the stage of the "Musketeers" show - prancing horses! acrobatics! special effects! There are five main shows and eight smaller scaled shows and it really takes two days if you want to see everything. Since we had one day, we concentrated on seeing the five major shows and caught one or two little ones in passing. The main shows can hold an incredible number of people - witness the seating for the Gladiator show:

Puy du Fou
yep, it's like that all the way around

so the real trick is not getting bogged down by following the crowds around all day. The schedule for each day is different and available just as you walk in the gate, so once we realized that crowd was sucking the fun out of the day, we looked at the schedule again, ate lunch a little early and pretty much did our own thing, which went a long way in making the day a nice one. In addition to the Gladiator and Musketeer shows, there are Vikings,

Puy du Fou


Puy du Fou

and a really cool bird show that I didn't take pictures of because I couldn't pick my jaw up off the floor after dodging falcons, eagles, and larger birds of prey flying just over our heads.

As if that wasn't enough, Puy du Fou also puts on a huge nighttime show on Friday and Saturday evenings through the summer called Cinéscénie. It claims to be the biggest nighttime show in the world, and I can believe it. With over 1100 volunteers, laser-light effects and huge fireworks on a stage that could easily be as big as four or five football fields put together, the show is worth the extra money. Don't bother trying to follow the thread of the story, as it's all allegory and simply a thin disguise to link together some of the major events of French history that are represented, whether in simple vignettes or with tightly organized choreography. Just enjoy the impressive scenery and the costumes and the "actors" - from grandparents to toddlers - and don't forget to look around, for there's action taking place as far as the eye can see.

Overall, we enjoyed our (very, very long) day at Puy du Fou, but it's not a place either of us are in a hurry to go back to, as once you've seen it, you're good for a nice, long while. That being said, new areas are being added on to the park every year and I think it will be a great place to visit with our own family maybe ten years down the road.

Next post: the Loire Valley

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

luck be a lady tonight

Day 4: le premier août, mercredi

After our traditional French breakfast of toasted baguettes and jam with coffee and juice, Stéph and I set out to put together our shish kebabs. This is something we started doing on a visit to the States when Stéph wanted to make brochettes for a family barbecue. The beef here isn't as good as what you'd find in the States - even Stéph will attest to that - but they're still better than the ones already assembled that you find in the grocery store here. Afterwards, I jumped in the car with my SIL and BIL for a quick trip to Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Although Montreuil-sur-Mer is no longer connected to the sea, it is a popular tourist stop for two reasons. First, it's built on a huge hill, and you can still walk around the whole city and enjoy the great views of the surrounding countryside. But this walk is not for the feint of heart (or small children or dogs not on a leash). That's because there are no guard rails and no walls to keep you from tumbling down a few hundred feet.

the edge of town
Watch your step!

The second reason is that Victor Hugo once stayed here for a short visit and liked it so much, he made it an important part of his novel, Les Misérables. It was in Montreuil that Jean Valjean became Mayor, so of course I couldn't resist taking a photo of the Mairie:

chez Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean's house

Montreuil is so well known as the setting of Les Misérables that the town puts on a big show on summer evenings about the novel, incorporating lights and fireworks. We didn't get to see it but I'm hoping that next year we will.

After our short walk through and around the town, we headed back to our third barbecue in as many days. This was the biggest, with just about all the family, including an aunt and a couple of cousins and their kids. The temperature was steadily increasing but we had a wonderful time nonetheless.

As soon as lunch was over, Stéph and I packed up the car and as the rest of the family was headed back to the beach, we waved goodbye and headed out on our own. Our destination was Etretat, on the Normandy coast.

It was a four hour drive, in which we only got slightly turned around once, and it seemed the minute we arrived in the town we enjoyed an incredible streak of luck. First, we tried to find a space to park in the very tiny parking lot in front of the Mairie, and just as we entered, someone signaled that they were leaving, and then they gave us their parking meter ticket which was good until the next morning! Our first priority was to find a hotel for the night, and we got a room in the first hotel we tried, the Hôtel des Falaises, only two blocks away from the beach. We had the option of taking a room with a shower but either with or without a bathroom, but the 20€ difference made us think that maybe the bathroom in the hallway wasn't such a bad idea. And it really wasn't - it was perfectly clean and I never had to wait during our stay.

Once the hotel was settled, we walked to the beach to take a look at the reason everyone comes to Etretat - the amazing cliffs:


They really were quite stunning.


As we walked back to grab something to eat (in what turned out to be a pretty mediocre touristy restaurant - you can't win 'em all), we passed by a casino, and I suggested we could go blow 20 bucks if we couldn't find anything else to do. Although the idea of slot machines didn't turn him on, he eventually agreed.

Y'all, I have created a monster.

We had a great time at the casino, and thanks to the fact that I wasn't wearing my watch, we lost track of time and didn't leave until nearly midnight. However, we did set our limit at 20€ and walked out with 20€, and I'm sure that at some point we doubled our money but we were having so much fun that we kept playing our winnings anyway.

And then, for the rest of the trip, Stéph kept an eye out for a casino. As much as I enjoyed it, I'm sort of grateful that we didn't cross paths with another casino during our trip - I'm afraid that's all we would have done! Maybe it's a good thing that there isn't a casino within a 200 km radius of us...

Next post: Puy du Fou

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

And we're off

Day 1: 29 juillet, dimanche

We left right on time, at 10:00. The weather was a little rainy and still cool, perfect driving weather. Our destination was Pas de Calais, in Northern France, where Stéph's parents rent a gite every year to visit the area where they grew up, as well and family and friends. We stopped at the usual stopping place, and thanks to the bad weather, ate our packed lunch in the car. Since the bar we usually go to for a coffee and to stretch our legs was closed, we drove on to the next village, where we stopped into a bar/fishing shop. The people were nice, although it was kind of a surreal experience, with the woman running the bar carrying on a loud conversation with her regulars and some guy that literally ran in and asked for a glass of water with a beer chaser, "to replenish his electrolytes." He had either lost or was born without hands, and had a curious contraption strapped onto one wrist, which helped him to pick things up. They were all quite friendly but a little odd, and we left before we could catch any crazy.

By the time we reached the gite, the weather had cleared up and it was suddenly sunny and gorgeous. The gite was pretty small, and we were sharing a really small space with Stéph's parents and his younger sister, her partner and their gorgeous little girl, our niece C. C is only 10 months old and this was her first overnight stay away from home, so it was kind of a rough night. I did manage to finish Harry Potter before going to bed.

Day 2: 30 juillet, lundi

Stéph slept on the couch, so he wouldn't wake the rest of us up when he and his father left early to go fishing. He still came upstairs and woke me up anyway. With the menfolk gone, I took my MIL to the local grocery, which was actually the nicest grocery I've ever seen. Not the biggest, but really nice. Anyway, we picked up a few things and drove back to the gite. Then my SIL, BIL, baby C and I went to see how the menfolk were doing. The fishing camp is really huge and thanks to the good weather, it was pretty packed. We found them at the very last pond. Stéph hadn't caught very many but he was enjoying himself. They had another hour to fish so we came back and had lunch. Once the guys came back with 14 trout, pretty much everyone except me and my MIL had a nap. She cleaned the fish while I started a new knitting project.

We had hoped to go to a local craft store but C was catching up on some much needed sleep so we let her rest. Instead, we went to say hello to Stéph's aunt and uncle, who live two villages over. They have a beautiful home with a nice big yard and lots of space for Uncle to indulge in his hobbies. He is a master woodscraftsman and his latest passion is restoring old cars from the frame all the way up to restitching the interior. Once we said our goodbyes, Stéph and I packed up our things and most of the fish and headed to our next destination - Stéph's older sister and family were renting a gite only half an hour away. We arrived just in time for dinner - barbecued trout. We enjoyed a great dinner outdoors and watched an old movie on tv while Stéph worked on the inflatable mattress.

And that is how we spent our third wedding anniversary.

Day 3: 31 juillet, mardi

After the cramped space with the MIL and all, we slept very well on the inflatable mattress. We had to keep our staying there kind of hush hush, since the place was only rated for four people, but we managed. In the morning, Stéph and I took our two nieces to check out the museum at Azincourt. (Yes, Squishy, THAT Azincourt!!) For those of you that are not quite up on your French/English/Shakespeare history, this is the place where Henry V and his army beat the snot out of the French in 1415. There is a very small interactive museum which covers the history leading up to and including the battle, the weapons and armor of the period and a short show in both French and English. Then we got in the car and rode around the battlefield, pausing at a memorial before heading back for lunch.

the battle of azincourt
click on the picture to go to the flickr site, where you can read the board in the large size.

the battlefield
the battlefield

For lunch, we had MIL, C and her parents over to join us for a barbecue. After fattening ourselves up on some sausages and pork chops, Stéph and I and the four we were staying with went to the beach to walk it all off.

berck sur mer

Berck-sur-Mer is only about half an hour away from where we were staying. It's a wonderful beach but it can be really crowded. Last time we were here, the weather was lousy and the beach was nearly deserted, but this time the sun was shining and the weather was perfect, so I wouldn't say it was packed, like I imagine beaches in the South of France are right now, but there was a good crowd. The six of us headed directly to the water and walked along the beach for a good hour before heading back up to the boardwalk, where we reversed all the good we did walking by enjoying some nice big ice cream sundaes. On the way back, we stopped at the big shopping center to pick up supplies for yet another barbecue for the next day. Another movie and a few more rows of knitting finished up the day.

Next time: Stéph and I head out on our own.

Monday, August 06, 2007

i need a vacation from my vacation

We're back and we're exhausted! We had a great time and over the next week or so I'll be posting about our adventures. For now, nearly everything's been unpacked (because seriously, if I don't do it first thing, the suitcases will sit around for days), Stéph's had a nap (I would love a nap but if I nap I won't sleep tonight - I'm very weird about my sleep), I've read my emails and next I'll be catching up on your blogs. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have time to download the photos and start writing. It was lovely to be out and about and to discover parts of France I hadn't been to before, but it's also great to be home!